Welcome to one of the most effective and efficient new vehicle options on the market, the 2018 Hyundai iMax Elite.
In a world increasingly turning to plug-in hybrids and electric vehicle (EV) technology, some might be dumbfounded that a 5.15-metre-long, diesel-powered people mover could be seen that way. But this facelifted iMax still seats eight and asks under $50K.
Whether cost-efficiency or per-person-fuel-efficiency is a key benchmark, this old Hyundai – the current-generation model emerged a decade ago – continues to move masses using a reasonably economical engine, and all for a decently moderate sum.
The question is, does this facelifted model move the people mover on by enough to challenge both fresher rivals and all-the-rage multi-seat SUVs?
Headlined by newly angular front-end styling, a revised dashboard with a fresh touchscreen, electric-folding door mirrors and reach-adjustable steering, the facelifted iMax Active has also now dropped by $3300 to $43,990 plus on-road costs.
A new $48,490 (plus orc) iMax Elite has then been added to the range, as tested here, which features larger 17-inch alloy wheels (up from 16s), two-tone exterior paint, beige leather trim, heated front seats with ventilation for the driver, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror and a dual-pane sunroof all as standard equipment.
Curiously, however, this commercial vehicle-based model still lacks keyless auto-entry, an electric tailgate, electrically adjustable front seats, plus safety technology such as a blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), or even curtain airbags (only four for front passengers are standard).
And it should be noted from the off that all of the above are expected these days, and are also available in passenger car-based Honda Odyssey and Kia Carnival rivals.
It may be a decade-old in design, but this facelifted iMax still gets the basics bang-on inside – it provides three comfortable rows of seats, all with lap-sash seatbelts and headrests, plus easy ergonomics, tight fit-and-finish and acres of space.
Some of that might come as no surprise given the iMax is over five metres long and is ostensibly based on the iLoad commercial van that prioritises loading space. Yet Hyundai hasn’t just bolted-in two rows of back seats like some did decades ago.
Open the old-school sliding doors – with pop-out windows, no less – and there are inboard side-steps, welcome lights, nicely trimmed carpet, proper headlining without any exposed metal, overhead fan control, and two rows of grabhandles and vents.
If that sounds like simple stuff, then it is. But other seven-seat SUV models for this money are much harder to get into, and out of, while many include awkward flip-then-fold seats and bulky transmission tunnels that affect space.
In this Elite, the floor is flat – though disappointingly the three-across centre bench fits that same description too – and there is a limousine-rivalling level of legroom. No need, then, to compromise second-row space to accommodate third-row passengers, because all six riders score ample shoulder room and feet space.
All can slide and recline away, and even then there’s 842 litres of boot volume behind, perfect for any family weekend getaway.
Other than with a lack of passive and active safety technology, which most obviously affects its score here, up-front is where this people mover clearly feels its age. Despite being well-built, the hard door plastics, very basic instrumentation and decade-old switchgear no longer feel worthy of a Hyundai of even half this price.
In keeping with the simple-and-easy overall theme, though, the new touchscreen is intuitive to use, but the inclusion of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is offset by the lack of a digital radio or satellite navigation. And beyond a couple of door bins, and a lower- and upper-glovebox, there’s a lack of storage space around the dashboard.
ON THE ROAD
If shopping centres and other parking lots are a regular part of a day’s drive, then be aware that the iMax remains a mighty big bus. It can feel unwieldy, especially considering the slow steering requires a lot of turning when navigating the Hyundai into place, while the diesel exposes its commercial van origins by being rather noisy.
It’s worth bringing these downsides up straight away, however, if only because this eight-seater is otherwise an unsurprisingly simple yet surprisingly pleasant drive.
Underpinned by a basic live rear axle, and topped literally by a bluff and high body, there is nothing dynamic about this Elite and it also lacks the refined sheen of a Carnival. But there’s also little to genuinely dislike about the way it moves around.
The spring and damper rates are firm, yet never harsh, so even when unladen they help keep the 2186kg people mover reasonably level and decently smooth. There’s some road noise, but it’s never overly intrusive even on rough surfaces. It’s worth noting that the more popular (and car-based) Odyssey is inferior in these respects.
Likewise, that petrol-only Honda can feel torque-deprived when attempting to maintain speed on hills or accelerate quickly. By contrast the Hyundai’s 2.2-litre turbo-diesel deploys its solid 441Nm of torque between 2000rpm and 2250rpm, while maximum power of 125kW arrives soon after at 3600rpm.
The work is all done by 4000rpm, meaning the five-speed automatic doesn’t really suffer from being one or two gears short of modernity, given the narrow power band.
Thankfully the diesel also smoothens out at speed, and on test it only just exceeded its combined-cycle fuel consumption claim of 8.8 litres per 100 kilometres – recording 10.5L/100km.
Sometimes an exuberant right foot can realise the limited grip of the rear tyres – a lowly Nexen-branded rubber used all ‘round – but the electronic stability control (ESC) is smooth and faithful in operation. In fact, that description could fit the iMax as a whole. Despite its age, it’s actually quite decently resolved, if not sophisticated.
ANCAP Rating: 4 stars – this model scored 25.81 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2009.
Safety Features: Dual front and front-side airbags, ABS and switchable electronic stability control (ESC), and rear parking sensors.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Five years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Average annual or 15,000km service intervals are charged at an average capped-price cost of $356/$356/$356/$506/$356 for the first five respectively.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The C4 Grand Picasso is much smaller, but in another league for driver enjoyment and technology, while the Carnival takes those two aspects and adds sheer size to the mix – frankly, it’s a much more polished people mover than this iMax is.
Despite being a passenger car-based model, and offering competitive price and active safety equipment, the petrol-only Odyssey is disappointingly a bumpier and noisier drive than this commercial-van based Hyundai.
- Citroen C4 Grand Picasso
- Honda Odyssey
- Kia Carnival
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
This Hyundai people mover deserves more of a facelift than the one it has been given. With an efficient diesel, composed suspension and acres of space for occupants and luggage, it still fulfils its eight-seater brief surprisingly well.
Surprising, indeed, is the word. For a commercial-van based model it drives better than expected, especially considering its vintage.
All of which makes its lack of airbag coverage and other active safety technology, plus the carry-over four-star ANCAP safety rating, all the more disappointing.
With updates to those areas, plus more precise steering, greater engine noise insulation, newer switchgear and greater luxury equipment such as an electric tailgate, the iMax may have moved closer towards a maximum score here.
- Interested in buying Hyundai iMax? Visit our Hyundai iMax showroom for more information.